Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson
MW: Please introduce yourself?
JZ: My name is Jeff Zausch, I’m a 28-year-old from Pocatello Idaho. I have nearly 10 years of experience as a wilderness survival instructor and guide. I have summited many of the tallest peaks in the Northwest United States and have worked as an Extreme White Water Rafting guide on the middle Fork of the Salmon River. My greatest expertise resides in primitive hunting and trapping, in which I have mastered in numerous environments including desert, arctic, alpine, coastal and jungle.
MW: How did you get cast to be on Naked & Afraid?
JZ: well… I was watching naked and afraid one night when I was having trouble sleeping. It was 2 AM and the Naked & Afraid episode I was watching was coming to a close when an ad popped up on the television screen saying that they were now accepting casting applications for future episodes. So I went to their website, at 2 in the morning, and wrote a very humorous application and submitted it. And to my surprise they called me back the very next day! They expressed their interest in my application and asked me if I would submit a 15 minute video demonstrating my greatest survival skills and strengths. As soon as I submitted the video I was surprised again when one of the producers contacted me the next day. They said that they were very impressed with my resume and asked me if I would like to fly to Los Angeles to meet all the producers of the show. Of course I said yes, and little did I know that only four weeks after visiting L.A. I would find myself naked in the deserts of Madagascar!
MW: How was it when you first got naked on the show?
JZ: when I eventually reached my location deep in the heart of Madagascar, the pick-up truck pulled to the side, the cameraman proceeded to turn on their equipment, and I was instructed to strip down. And honestly that was one of the most awkward moments of my life! That’s when I truly asked myself, “what the heck am I doing out here?” But to my surprise the other awkwardness of being naked only lasted a couple of hours. Once I met my partner, and we exchanged pleasantries, our focus was quickly shifted into survival mode. Once the heat of the desert sun kicked in and the beginning signs of dehydration became noticeable, the embarrassment of being naked was quickly replaced with the immediate need to find water and shelter.
MW: What made you want to do Naked & Afraid?
JZ: I’ve always been an individual who enjoys pushing my mind and my body to their ultimate limits. I am continually searching for new challenges in order to see where my skills match up among the best survivalists in the world. When I saw (Naked & Afraid) for the first time on TV I knew that this show was going to change the nature of primitive survival forever. This television show was the first of its kind in the world to boldly put people in life-threatening situations & allow them the freedom to test whether or not they can survive. When I saw how authentic and extreme this challenge was, I knew that I had to be a part of it!
MW: What did you think of your partner Eva Rupert?
JZ: The first several days Eva and I were still trying to figure each other out. It became very clear early on that we were very different people and had very different strategies on survival. We butted heads a few times within the first week but then we began to understand one another and respect one another. By the time we were halfway through the challenge we were working as a well-oiled machine. Eva and I both left our egos at the door and that allowed us to learn from one another and to show a great amount of respect for one another. I couldn’t have asked for a better survival partner than Eva Rupert! I consider her a great friend and somebody that I can trust with my life. I see us as being very good lifelong friends.
MW: How did you keep from catching something?
JZ: Do you mean how did I keep from catching a disease or virus of some kind? It’s very simple; always allow your mind to be stronger than your stomach! Even though you may be starving you cannot afford to eat or drink something that you are not absolutely certain that it is safe. Eva and I only ate and drank what we knew was going to be good for us, we never took any chances.
MW: How was it being in the desert of Madagascar’s Massif D’Isalo?
JZ: The desert sucked! I could not have been placed in a more horrific location. My greatest expertise resides in primitive hunting and trapping, and I was placed in an environment with absolutely nothing to hunt or trap! The only animals in the area were lizards and the rare boa constrictor. I was a little disappointed that I was not able to showcase the majority of my extensive survival skills. There was little to hunt and there were absolutely no materials that were any good for building tools, weapons or shelters. The desert was so limited by resources that Eva and I had to quickly adapt to the environment and rely on our ability to overcome trials and think out-of-the-box.
MW: What was your favorite thing to eat?
JZ: My favorite thing to eat was definitely lizard tails! The tails were so juicy and they were even boneless! I still consider them a delicacy to this day
MW: How did you feel when you made it through to complete the challenge?
JZ: When Eva and I finally put our hands on our rescue vehicle on day 21, it was the greatest moment of my life! That feeling of knowing that you did it and that the mental and physical suffering was over, that was one of the greatest feelings! I am so appreciative that Eva and I were placed in such a horribly harsh environment, because the degree of our joy when we completed the challenge was exponentially more than if we had been placed on a tropical beach somewhere.
MW: How did you get picked for Naked & Afraid XL?
JZ: Roughly 2 days before Christmas Discovery Channel called me and asked me if I would be interested in the show. I told them that I would have to speak with my wife first and we would get back to them. So after two weeks of trying to convince my wife, she finally gave me the thumbs up. I called discovery and told them I was in. And just four weeks later I would find myself standing naked in the jungles of Columbia.
MW: Are you happy with the partners for Naked & Afraid XL?
JZ: I feel absolutely and entirely blessed to have been partnered with the people that I was with on XL! Not everybody can make that statement, but I’m very happy that I can.
MW: Is Naked & Afraid XL just a one night show?
JZ: No, (Naked & Afraid) XL is a full 10 episode series!! The viewers will get to follow me and the other competitors every Sunday night for 10 episodes! It is going to be the most talked about show of the summer!
MW: How can fans reach out to you?
JZ: I love to interact personally with each and every one of my fans. They can reach out to me on my personal website, YouTube, or by social media! Get exclusive behind the scenes information on my blog and website http://www.jeffzausch.com
Fans can also subscribe & follow all of my crazy adventures on my
YOUTUBE channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/zausjeff Or follow me on social media:
MW: What would you like to say in closing?
JZ: I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for all of my amazing fans! It is because of you guys that I am able to live out my childhood dream! I’m so fortunate for the blessings I’ve been given and I live every day of my life attempting to give back. I have founded a charity called the “Christmas 4 Madagascar Foundation”. It provides Christmas presents for thousands of villagers in the country of Madagascar. To read more about the foundation and to make a donation please visit my website at http://www.jeffzausch.com. Help me give the true gift of survival to citizens of one of the poorest countries on earth. Thank you and God bless!
Giveaway coming on July 12th. night that Naked & Afraid debuts on Discovery.